James Pendergast

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Statue of James Pendergast on Quality Hill overlooking the West Bottoms

James Francis Pendergast (January 27, 1856 – November 10, 1911) was a Democratic politician and the first Big City Boss of Kansas City, Missouri. He was the elder brother of Thomas J. Pendergast and Michael J. Pendergast.

Pendergast was born in Gallipolis, Ohio. His family moved to St. Joseph, Missouri in 1859, and he moved to Kansas City in 1876. After winning a horse race on a long shot called "Climax," he opened a saloon named for the horse in the West Bottoms.

In 1884 he was elected as a delegate to represent the sixth ward in the Democratic City Convention. In 1887 he became the Democratic committeeman from the first ward. He was elected alderman in 1892. Known as "Alderman Jim" and "Big Jim," he achieved political power by doing favors. His chief political rival was Joe Shannon. Pendergast's faction was called the "goats" because they wanted to climb out of the river bottoms, while Shannon's faction was the "rabbits" because their power base was in the river bottom.

After his death, a statue of him was placed in Mulkey Square overlooking the West Bottoms. It is now in Case Park on Quality Hill.


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